John (Jack) Laurence Kask was born in a log cabin near Sylvan Lake on 21 March 1906. His parents were Juhan and Minnie Kask, Estonian immigrants who settled in the Sylvan Lake area. Jack spent much of his early life following his restless and ambitious father, who was constantly on the move looking for new challenges and opportunities. Jack spent time in Port Essington, British Columbia, returned to Estonia for a year, then moved to Tofield, and later to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. In 1923 Jack's family moved to Vancouver while his father travelled to Siberia hoping to start a mining co-operative. To help provide for his mother and sisters and to pay for university, Jack worked on crab fishing boats near the Queen Charlotte Islands as a teenager.
Upon his graduation from the University of British Columbia in 1928, Jack dedicated much of his life to academia-specifically marine biology and oceanography. He was among the first graduates in the newly established field of oceanography. He received a PhD from the University of Washington in 1936 and investigated the biology of the pacific halibut for the International Fisheries Commission from 1929 to 1939. He was associate scientist and assistant director of the International Salmon Commission from 1939 to 1943 and curator of aquatic biology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco from 1943 to 1948. In the years between 1945 and 1946, he spent 15 months in Japan where he worked for the US government's Fisheries Division. He also travelled extensively. He ventured to New Zealand, Australia, Europe and Asia. From 1963 to 1963, Jack served as chairman and CEO of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada. He later joined the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California as a research associate. He retired in 1981. John possessed scholarly knowledge of opera and literature and was fluent in several languages, including Estonian.
In 1935 Jack married Doris Hunter of Seattle. They had two daughters, Janet of Montréal and Melanie of Ukiah, California. After Doris died in 1972, Jack married Viola Waltz of San Diego. He died in San Diego in 1998, at the age of 92.